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tv   Asia Insight  PBS  December 24, 2014 6:30pm-7:01pm PST

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the falls cascade down the mekong river.
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it's wet season in cambodia and the river is a raging torrent. through the low lying plains below, the flow of the river slows. these calm waters are home to an abundance of awe a quautic life. dolphins can often be seen swimming here. these are the irrawaddy dolphins of the mekong river. a rare and protected ocean species that has adapted to a fresh water habitat. the village is a 180 kilometer stretch of river that is home to the dolphins. s.thatrol the river every day v
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to ensure that fishermen do not harm the gtle dolphins. the dolphins now draw to the village more than 20,000 tourists each year. handmade dolphin carvings are a popular souvenir.
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protecting the dolphins have brought the village significant economic benefits. in this episode of asia insight, we follow the villagers along the mekong river as they strive to protect the dolphins that are bringing them prosperity. the village of kampi has a population of around 1,000. the statue of a dolphin stands proudly in the village center.
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it was handmade by locals as a symbol of their conservation efforts. tourts come from as far as europe and north america. the village welcomes around 23,000 domestic and fortune visitors annually. they're all here for one reason. >> yes, we want to watch the dolphins. >> if you see dolphin, you get much luck, yeah. >> the basic fee for dolphin tours is $7 per person.
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each can hold up to seven people. the driver and guide is a local villager. about five minutes after setting off, they reach an area where dolphins are commonly scene. the driver quiets the engines. everyone waiting patiently for their first sight of the dolphins. >> over there, everyone. right there. to the deflightlight of the tourists, the dolphins surface.
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these are irrawaddy dolphin, a species known locally as mekong dolphins. their characterized by their bulging foreheads and short beaks. >> sometime, the dolphin come because it love this. yeah, they're spitting waters to the customer of the boat. yeah and the water is very clear, so, we can look in the water like, oh, the dolphin, swim under the boat right there. >> boat tours last about an hour. >> i take wonderful picture. yeah, this was a great experience.
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>> guides can earn around $80 a month. about twice the average income in the region. >> have a nice day in cambodia. good luck to you. >> it's great. >> back on shore, various products are on sale in the village. kampi is well-known for its wooden carvings of the mekong dolphin. in the pink season, the carvings can generate up to $300 a month for the shops.
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in 2013, gross income from the tour, souvenirs and other related sources reached nearly a million dollars. dolphins are a revered part of camera bode yan culture and a year ago, there were several hundred inhabiting waters. wall paintings show a goddess swimming with the creatures. according to legend, dolphins were originally mermaids. the camera bode yan civil war lasted for more than 30 years. the dolphins suffered, too, and were thought to be extinct.
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after the conflict settled down, fisheries scientist began searching for surviving dolphins. he traveled by boat up a mekong river and it was near kampi where he first spotted some individuals. he found 20 dolphins inhabiting the river near the village. further searches found another 40.
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>> he did all he could to persuade them to protect the dolphins. in 1998, his hard work paid off with the designation of -- in the mekong river basin. in protective areas, fishing with explosives or using electric currents is banned. this has dramatic reduced the -- putting pressure on their livelihoods. with this in mind, he established a dolphin
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conservati conservation center in 2001 with the assistance of an ngo. working together with king, an official from the fisheries ministry, the center conducts research and closely monitors the dolphins. they also try to get local people involved in their activities. >> santana realized that other habitats benefit from tourism and decided to introduce similar programs to cambodia. became the location for the country's first tourism project.
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dolphin watching tour boats began operating and soon provided extra income. more began visiting the village in 2006. the number of boats has now increased from seven to around 30 and dozens of locals are currently employed by the project. mao pon has been working as a guide. he was originally a fisherman, but was encouraged to switch occupations. he says his income is now twice what it was previously.
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when tourist numbers starteded to increase, it was santa who sukted to start selling carvings. his idea was met with some skepticism. santana invited some crafts men to the village and began teaching local youngsters how to carve.
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500 households are now making the carvings. some are even shipped to the capital.
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he and his family started carving seven years ago. kim used to be a fisherman. a tree that grows in the wilderness in the province. they produce dolphin ornaments and cake holders. this ornament is ken's largest item, which he sells for $7.50 to souvenir shops. he says because he was used to seeing as a fisherman, he can carve them from his own imagination.
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king has taught his daughters how to carve and now, the whole family is involved in the business. sometimes, they can earn more than $450 a month in sales. the family previously lived in a small house with a thatched roof that washed away every time the floods came. three years ago, they were able to build this new home and a workshop. >> as a fisherman, they struggled to raise their ten
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children. they say dolphin carving has changed their lives. stands proudly across thevil village. the dolphin population has gradually recovered, but new problems have emerged.
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over the past several years, a number of baby dolphins have been found dead. at first, people were suspicious that chemicals were contamina contaminating the river. santana performed an autopsy on a dead dolphin. it was clear of toxins and so was the water. eventually, a dead dolphin was found tangled in a fisherman's net. some had begun using large gill nets.
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>> santana lobbied the use of gill masks, even after the introduction of regulation, orders were ignored and dolphins continues to die. this wooden building is is on the banks of the mekong river. it's the headquarters of the river guards who patrolled the area around the village. it was formed in 2006 to clamp down on fishermen using gill nets. the men selected as river guards are vouched for as trustworthy. the government pays their salaries.
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they are led by sean king who led since the center opened. despite the efforts, the gill nets are still a problem and continue to kill baby dolphins. going on a sweep for illegal nets. the dolphin habitats have
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abundant reserves of fish, which attract illegal smuggling organizations outside the local area. the police accompany the river guards. most of the river guards are also fishermen. they know which parts of the river where gill nets are found. this net is 30 meters long and
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extends down to the river bed. modern nets are made from nylon. the nets are incinerated to make sure they can never be used again.
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it's become a game of cat and mouse for the river guards an the smugglers as they try and gain the upper hand over each other. santana is visit iing the elementary school in kampi. the school was rebuilt in 2009 and some of the construction costs were paid with the money from the project. since 2006, santana has been touring local elementary and junior high schools the importance of protecting the dolphins.
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santana explains that the dolphins are mammals, just like human beings. santana believes that helping
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the children learn more about the dolphins will encourage them to care for the mammals. thanks to his efforts, dolphin numbers could now increase to around 180. santana is happy with the process and still takes time out to observe the dolphins when he can. pretty close. oh. oh, again.
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hello, have you seen dolphin? you come a little bit late because you should be around before 9:00 is good, 9:00 to 10:00. >> when ever he sees tour riss, he can't resist telling them about the mekong dolphins. >> make a noise -- you see. see. you see? this is really one. make that noise. they just want to hear. oh, my friend.
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in other areas of the river, more eco tourism projects centered around the dolphins are beginning to blossom the dolphin conservation work that began in kampi is now bringing good fortune to people far beyond the village.
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>> garrison keillor: maxine kumin lives on a farm in new hampshire where she breeds arabian and quarter horses, writing poetry, four novels, more than 20 children's books. she says, "i don't want to write poems that aren't necessary.
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i want to write poems that matter." >> this is a little one called after love. afterward, the compromise. bodies resume their boundaries. these legs, for instance, mine. your arms take you back in. spoons of our fingers, lips admit their ownership. the bedding yawns, a door blows aimlessly ajar and overhead, a plane singsongs coming down. nothing is changed, except there was a moment when the wolf, the mongering wolf who stands outside the self lay lightly down, and slept. ( applause ) thank you.
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>> glad to have you with us on this edition of "newsline." ths thursday, december 25th. i'm catherine kobayashi in tokyo. japan's lawmakers have decided to give shinzo abe another term as prime minister. abe and his governing coalition had a victory in a general election earlier this month. he has a clearer mandate to pursue his economic and political reforms. [ speaking foreign language ] [ applause ] >> the cabinet resigned wednesday morning and the diet convened in the afternoon to formally name a prime minister. the re w


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